We posted a video this morning with this update, but we also collected the news round up of reactions to the sentence handed down today by Andrew Edis, the presiding judge in the case.
Three teenagers who dragged PC Andrew Harper to his death in a “wicked” and reckless attempt to evade capture by police have been jailed for a total of 42 years.
Henry Long, 19, was behind the wheel of a Seat Toledo with 18-year-olds Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers in the passenger seats as they pulled Pc Harper down a Berkshire country lane for more than a mile.
The newlywed officer had been called out to reports of a burglary in progress and bravely confronted the thieves, but his feet became entangled in a tow rope as they sped away from the scene.
The teenagers argued it was a “freak” incident and were acquitted of murder, but today faced sentencing for the manslaughter of Pc Harper as well as a conspiracy to steal the quad bike.
Mr Justice Edis warned Long was a dangerous and “disturbing” offender who saw nothing wrong with putting police and other road users’ lives at risk, jailing him for 16 years. He sentenced Cole and Bowers to 13 years each.
“You killed a talented and brave young police officer who was going above and beyond duty in order to provide a public service, and you did so by deliberately deciding to expose any police officer who got in your way to a risk of death,” he said.
“You decided your freedom to commit crime was more important than his life.”
The judge said the three teenagers had hatched a plan to get away from police “by any means necessary”, and must have known something was attached to the tow rope.
“They drove on not knowing or caring what it was they were dragging”, he said. “They worked together as a team to enable them to escape, and they all knew this would require desperately dangerous driving if it was to succeed.”
Earlier, several outlets shared previews of today’s sentencing hearing. The Daily Mail provided highlights of Lissie Harper’s Victim Impact Statement:
Lissie Harper, 28, breaking down twice, said: ‘My husband was brutally killed four weeks after our wedding day. Should I speak again of how we were robbed of our future or the plans stolen from us?
‘Four weeks was all I had with my husband – four weeks to be called his wife. My life often feels bleak, hopeless, irreparable. Every aspect of my life since Andrew was taken is bitterly different.’
‘This is my third attempt at writing a statement. I simply find myself in a lost and endless world.
‘That’s the reason in particular this question defeats me – unless you have stood in my shoes, lost a soulmate, a beloved partner you intended to spend your life with – how is this grief possible to describe?
‘I have used every word possible to describe this torture – indescribable trauma I have been forced to endure these past 11 months.
‘I have cried and broken down. My husband was brutally killed four weeks after our wedding day.
‘Should I speak again of how we were robbed of our future or the plans stolen from us?
‘Four weeks was all I had with my husband – four weeks to be called his wife. My life often feels bleak, hopeless, irreparable.
‘Every aspect of my life since Andrew was taken is bitterly different. Not only did these men take this man from me, they took our future too.
‘They took more than one life away that day, they stole the person I used to be. Every ounce of beautiful peace gone.
‘In answer to the question: how has Andrew’s death impacted me? You can be satisfied I am now a shadow of the person I once was.
‘Broken, distraught, beaten, a void, an empty shell. He gave everything.
‘Andrew will never grace us with his smile – his compassion and selfless generosity.
‘I will spend every day for the rest of my life with a hole that will never be filled.
‘I search around for words to express my heartbreak, but each word is inadequate.’
The Sun also shared Lissie Harper’s statement.
The Evening Standard shared the judge’s defense of the jury at the hearing.
Henry Long, 19, was driving the car that dragged PC Harper to his death while Jessie Cole and Albert Bowers, 18, were both passengers on the fateful night in August last year.
As the teenagers face sentence at the Old Bailey for manslaughter, Mr Justice Edis took the unusual step of speaking out about the way the case had been run, ending in all three defendants being cleared of murder.
Pc Harper’s widow, Lissie, has said she was “utterly shocked and appalled” by the verdicts, and has called for the government to intervene to force a murder retrial.
The judge was also forced during the case to impose extra security measures to protect the jurors.
“It may be believed in some quarters that the jury was subject to some improper pressure”, he said. “To the best of my knowledge and belief there is no truth in that at all.”
He said the jurors had been referred to in court by number rather than their names amid security fears.
“This was because the court was informed in March 2020 that the police held information that associates of the Defendants planned to follow members of the jury with intent to intimidate them”, he revealed this morning.
“This information was not corroborated and nothing at all untoward happened during the first trial.
“It was not disclosed to the parties, and has not been made public until now.
“It is not unusual that such information is received, but actual attempts to subvert the jury process are unusual.
“It is difficult to intimidate a whole jury and at least ten of this jury agreed that the murder charge had not been proved.”
We will be following the additional reactions and statements from the sentencing.